Saturday, June 3, 2017

Race Report: The Dreaded Clip Show Episode

I like to run my races according to something Lao Tzu said a long time ago--
If you are depressed, you are living in the past.  If you are anxious, you are living in the future.  If you are at peace, you are living in the present.  
The Worlds End 100k was one of those times where I tried to live in the present and enjoy it, but it was apparently just too fucking boring for me.  Here's what I did instead.

It's been a while since I've posted, so here's what I've been up to since my misadventure down south:
  • I noted that I gave myself ITBFS a while back; through a little skill I managed to get it on the opposite knee by running pretty much immediately after I landed back home after Northburn Station.  I've been able to somewhat mitigate it by running like a little bitch on steeper downhills and effectively tiptoeing downslope while leaning backwards, so as to minimize any chances of hyperextension.  I did notice during my flight to Toronto for Worlds End that it is aggravated by how my leg is rotated in relation to the rest of my body--toes pointing out feels shittier than toes pointing in.  
  • Running like a little bitch downhill gave me a nearly-full tank of gas for the last 10k of the Hyner 50k, and I finished the first race of the Pennsylvania Triple Crown 35th out of 300ish.  
    • I now have a nemesis from Egg Harbor Township, NJ, who has consistently beat me at TARC 100, Hyner and now Worlds End by 2-16 places.  He knows who he is.  
  • I knew it would be humid as fuck when I got stateside for Worlds End, so as a 'taper run' I ran the Calgary 50k as the sub-5h pace bunny dressed in a Don Cherry suit. I finished with 9 minutes to go but was only able to shepherd one runner into the finish line. Let's just say I'm done pacing for a little bit.  
    • This was the first race I 'ran' where I didn't run the maximum distance offered (150k).  It was difficult not to sign up for that. 
  • Oh, and I won my AG in the Ultrarunning Race Series again, but only because the actual winner showed up on the ladies' side.  I think I'm done with this race series though because I'm getting to the age where shit gets competitive and I don't want to kill myself over something like this, so instead i'm going to just focus on having fun and suffering in beautiful places.  more on that later.
And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming...........

If my Northburn Station experience was a masterclass in execution, then Worlds End 100k would be a masterclass in proper race prep: 
  • Since Avalon 50, I've been flying in the day before races under 100m, and using same-day race package pickup if possible, before flying out the morning after the race.  This usually spares me an extra vacation day each race so I can go do other fun shit during the year, but it's very nerve wracking when the YYZ/MDT flight is serviced by a 19-seat Beech 1900D and after you had your luggage bulked out by Air Canada on a IAH/YYC flight for literally no reason at all (there were eight empty seats that flight).  
    • for those of you who have complained about airplane quality on Air Canada--you'll stop complaining once you fly on this piece-of-shit airplane with no cockpit door, no lavatory, no overhead compartments and no flight attendant.  it's fun to see through the windshield while you're landing...but not when it's crosswind.  
    • on my flight to MDT, I was delayed by 90mins plus another 20 when the two deadheading pilots for the subsequent MDT/YYZ flight that day were late to their seats.  I had some errands to run after landing at MDT, namely buying a fuck-ton of candy from Hershey's Chocolate World and getting my traditional pre-race shopping done (read: pickles).  By the time I got to my hotel, it was 11pm and the race started at 5am, giving me a hilariously modest 3.5h of shuteye.  
    • After realizing I would be arriving at my hotel at 11pm I stopped at the Texas Roadhouse in Muncy for food right before 9pm so everything would have time to digest overnight, but they didn't have any pasta and in my haste I ordered my steak rare like I usually do.  I definitely felt that one probably until mile 25.  
    • After picking up my race gear at 415am I went back to my car to try to get some shuteye, but was rudely interrupted by another runner stepping into the wrong car.  
  • [obligatory remark about the shit work week I had the week of the race]  I mean, I was tapering anyways, but I was definitely not sleeping.  
  • in traditional 'Best Coast is better than Beast Coast' fashion, I didn't even bother reading any race reports or intel on this course.  the only things I looked up were elevation gain in order to assess whether to pack my poles or not, and which aid station to stack my 50k bag at.   
Worlds End 100k is set up as a 50k loop to start, and then a back-50k lemniscate.  The race is so named as it starts from the Worlds End State Park, which itself is so named because settlers back in the day arrived at the confluence of seven mountain ranges, and then promptly said "fuck that we're stopping here" or something like that.  It sits in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania and is a giant dead zone for cell phone signal, while the trails are "largely rugged, scenery-dense single-track trails with some fairly remote sections".  The race guide literally says that "the elevation profile resembles an irregular rhythm EKG", and that "as John Young writes in Hike Pennsyvlania, 'If you want to do some hiking in the Worlds End region, you should know that hiking her means climbing."  If you can't be too troubled to google that shit but can put on a VHS copy of Jurassic Park and fast forward to the scene of the flight to Isla Nublar......that's a good alternative too.

My friend Larry, who got me into the Triple Crown, sent me a message at the airport Friday bidding me good luck, and to enjoy the "green tunnel".  I didn't know what he meant but didn't think too much of it, especially after enduring the moonscape that was New Zealand.  

My A-goal was originally a sub-13h finish given how Miwok went last year, but by the time I was eating dinner on Friday night, I was pretty much content with finishing before sunset (<15.5h).  To make it fun I'd have a headlamp stashed in my 50k bag in case I rolled an ankle and was forced to zombie-shuffle the back half, but I'd try my best not to use it and just keep a GoalZero lantern in my pocket the whole time in case I rolled an ankle on the back 50k.  

Disappointingly there was a light drizzle at the start of the race, but I was assured this would not last through the morning.  I still had to lug a jacket for the first little bit as my shirt was significantly cotton.  


The start was just like most of my other races--it'd be a fast one out of the gate to ensure I was in a decent position by the start of the single track and not bleeding time due to someone so much further in over their head than I was.  I'd then wait for my "Icarus moment", when I'd get knocked the fuck back down to the middle of the pack because of some stupid uphill or downhill where my distrust of my Speedcross 4's would get the better of me, but then I'd keep fighting to ensure I didn't end up like he did because I'd figure out the rhythm I needed to distribute my energy as evenly as possible through the entire day.   To top that off, I was seriously afraid I would black out like I did at Fat Dog during the latter parts of the race due to the previous night's beauty sleep, so I really hesitated to keep the foot on the gas.  

Sunrise was around half an hour after the race started, so I tried to leverage off others' headlamps because I didn't want to run half of the race with a headlamp on my head after having used it for less than hour.  Unfortunately what I didn't realize was that this was a moot point with Pennsylvania's deathly roots and rocks--with the tight spacing at the start of the race, the runners behind me would create a shadow over where my tiny lantern was trying to illuminate.  If they got too close I'd slow down because I couldn't see shit all with the dark space in front of me, and then I'd let them pass, and then I'd speed up until the process repeated itself with the next runner behind me.  

Thankfully this ordeal lasted a little before the first aid station at mi4 and I was able to run normally thereafter, tucking my lantern back into my shorts.  But as the sun came up, this soon revealed what Larry was talking about--the green tunnel was a neverending single track filled with the same pattern of the same uphills, downhills, trees, and asshole roots and rocks.  Whereas Northburn Station was a sensory overload with its magnificent views of being able to see dozens of km's away, this was a complete fucking jungle of a sensory overload and it was very difficult to figure out my bearing (not that I gave a shit).  Everything just started to blur after a while and my brain struggled to focus. 

Which brings me back to the title of this report.

Mile 10

Everyone has their own method of coping with pain, but the key theme is that you do not let your brain shut off.  Sometimes you count to 100, sometimes you throw down some acapella beats, sometimes you play tourist and just take all the selfies you can, sometimes you make other people talk to you (particularly hard if you don't know the language--thanks, Austria!), and sometimes you start chanting like one does on a march.  

As my mental engagement started to fade, I started recalling a poem I read shortly after Northburn Station--I don't remember where I saw this, but I had happened upon one of Ezra Pound's works, written shortly before World War I, subtly named And the days are not full enough:
And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
Not shaking the grass
Some powerful words, powerful enough to question my life choices post-graduation five years ago, and to question whether I have shaken the grass enough since then.  But after the shitshow that was Northburn Station I had vowed to carry this balance of believing and feeling grateful thing onwards to the rest of my life.  I resolved that none of my races since I took up racing in 2013 would be "pointless" or "useless", and I figured that more than half of day of being alone with my thoughts would be a pretty good block of time to look back introspectively and find some shit I should be more thankful for, and to start believing every race was "necessary".   
> Diakonos St. Patrick's Day 10K: My first race I paid money for.  Left hungry for more so I knew what fulfillment didn't feel like.  

> Calgary Police Half Marathon: Asked for more and got more, but still didn't feel content.  Also showed me what a crock of shit Nike was [at the time].
> Calgary Marathon: Asked for even more, and got even more.  Started wondering when I'd finally say 'no, let's not overdo it'. 
 I started talking up the others around me to try to pass the time, but just like any other race, you start to lose focus on your own execution after long-ass conversations and that usually fucks you over.  Such was the case when I met a Jason from Pittsburgh who was gunning for the Triple Crown as well, and we covered so many topics from my silly downhill running form to my coaching of his pole use (he didn't install his carbide tips yet and almost took my face off while hiking up stairs), and as a result many runners passed me, including my friend Martin from Toronto, who I met at Hyner.  I deliberately eased off on the downhills to try to lose Jason but then would catch him on the uphills after ensuring I was refueling properly, but otherwise I couldn't care less about the whole world turning without me as I was planning on turning on the afterburners much later in the course, and only when I knew I had enough gas in the tank to not pass out.  
> 5 Peaks Central Alberta Series: Yes, once upon a time I actually ran 5 Peaks races, instead of volunteering at them.  And it was my first exposure to "trail", a magical world that is nothing like the road you train on.  And just like right now with my stupid knee pain, my bambi legs were holding up the rest of the pack tiptoeing downhill and practicing my orienteering skills, or lack thereof. 

The course marking at this course was nothing I was used to--I thought that Lysefjorden Inn was silly with its tiny turistforeningen red T's painted on random-ass rocks, but Worlds End involved occassional orange flags, yellow blazes and Loyalsock Trail L's signed on trees that were, to put it simply, camouflaged more than half the time.  And sometimes the trail would just disappear because there literally was no foot traffic at this park, and the path would just blend into the dead leaves on the dirty ground.  I swear, the number of times I took off my shades at this race in order to look for a trail marker under a canopy exceeded the number of times Horatio Caine did in CSI: Miami during all eight seasons.  Furthermore, there were a few hilarious intersections where flags were deployed on the opposite side of where we were turning into, resulting in some situations where runner-after-runner around me would end up bushwhacking for a minute before a race veteran would come by and save us.  

Runners were now passing me without their rain gear, which I had kept on a few extra miles because I had trouble discerning the sound of rain and water dripping off trees.  I eventually took off my jacket somewhere before mile 17, but only after having sweat more than I needed to in that portable sauna.  

Mile 22

My ITBFS on my right knee was raging now and I could feel a blister developing on the bottom of my right big toe.  I was wearing Speedcross 4's and wouldn't have access to my Wings 8 SG's until mile 36, but the blister wasn't too big of an issue with my heavily-pronounced rear-foot strike.  I hadn't bled too much time loitering at aid stations so far, because I figured that once I hit my drop bag I'd probably be there for almost ten minutes switching out socks, shoes, electrolyte pills, dropping off my rain jacket and rinsing my stomach in pickles.  Just fucking relax, and then run the back 42k like you haven't just run 58k, I told myself. 
> Big Sur Marathon: The first time I'd travel somewhere to race.  It showed me the horizon is always so much wider than you think it is.  I had the pleasure of driving a fellow hotel guest from Germany to the start line, who showed me it is possible to run without giving a fuck, as he ran with a stupidly-huge stupidly-old point-and-shoot digital camera.  I never saw him after the start line but I suspect he had fun.   
> Calgary Marathon 50K: Learned that I couldn't run a 50K at marathon pace, and that I was not immune to nipple-chafing.  More importantly, preparing for an ultra was different from preparing for a marathon.  But this was my first ultra; the big toe in the shallow-side of the pool. 
I came across a shirtless runner shortly before Mile 28--I had hunted him for the better part of a mile before he stopped to admire a mushroom (he wasn't a farmer).  I passed him and he hung on for a little bit, prior to our conversation revealing he only had 90 minutes of sleep the night before and had contemplated dropping out at mile 16.  I told him to get coked up at the next aid station, and that if I saw him at mile 36 I would share whatever energy goodies I had on me to give him a boost, as I was totally not expecting someone with less sleep than I had at this race. 
 Trailstoke: My first trail ultra and the death of my road-race-esque standards for race experience expectations, when the course ended up 12k short.
> Canadian Death Race: Two weeks later--my first adventure past the 100k mark, where I didn't expect to qualify for WS100, but I did anyways by just under half an hour.  Pursuing that has since opened a ton of doors for me.  

Iron Legs: Two weeks later--my first experience with the toe socks I could have used at CDR.  but after running three ultras in six weeks (child's play by comparison now), I realized that "suffering is the sole origin of consciousness".  (Thanks, Dostoyevsky!)
Mile 36

I got to High Knob after my watch told me I had run 12 miles from the last aid station located right by the start line, which apparently was bullshit as it is only supposed to be eight miles.  In any case I had run out of water completely as it was starting to get hot, and was drinking out of my pickle juice flask once I got there.  

I need to learn from the volunteers at the High Knob aid station--they had chairs set up around a community bin of first aid fun, and told me to"just leave your drop bag where it is when you're done with it".  Fuuuuuuck, why haven't I ever thought of these ideas?  I guess that's pretty much the reason I travel so fucking far to these races though--to develop best practices, or something.  

I arrived shortly after 11am and as predicted, I was out in less than 10 minutes, and somehow managed to leave the aid station with Martin, who said he had started out too fast. I let him lead me for a little bit, but once we hit gently-downhill runnable jeep track I remembered I had my own race to run, told him that I expected to see him on the next steep downhill and then ran off.  

Even on the technical sections, my new shoes had yet to produce any ITB twinges that had dogged me on the first 35m.  I was glad I had my dancing shoes on now.  
> The Rut, vK and 50K: Ran in two races with Killian Jornet.  He only beat me by half an hour in the first one, but it was only 5K.  Learned what 'take a seat' meant, especially when I had no uphill skills and no scree-dancing skills. 
5 Peaks Unbreakable:  In this long-forgotten race up the Canada Olympic Park ski jump tower, this taught me not to look back.  There'll always be someone, something back there, so don't worry about that uncertainty.   
Mile 42

I had been running without anyone in front of me for quite some time now.  Since passing Martin I had passed two more runners who were clinging on to me but once in a while I'd send it straight through a stretch of mud as they'd shoot for the high-sides around the trees.  I had been bleeding speed throughout the day by jumping into streams, but anyone who passed me at that point would be re-passed within ten minutes as my shorts held water for an amazingly long period of time, that kept my quads iced.  In addition, I had my emptying my flasks by squirting them all over my lower body when close to an aid station, which saved time on jumping in streams.  
Tour de Tirol: My first "stage race".  Austrian lost my luggage, so I was given the opportunity to go "back to basics" and run without all the bells and whistles I normally do at home.  
> MEC Race  #7 Marathon: If you're easily bored, then perhaps road running is not for you.
Georgia Sky to Summit 50K: My first beast coast race, and where I met Larry.  Realized that this will always be someone else's house.
It didn't take too long for a lady and her pacer who loitered at Dry Run to pass my on the subsequent uphills, and I didn't see them anymore after about 45 minutes of tailing them.  I passed one other runner and his pacer in this time, but for the most part it was just more cycles of steep uphills and downhills and the same scenery and what not.  I was definitely starting to drink a fuck-ton of water now, with it being the dead of the afternoon, and was flipping my urination intervals from my usual 2.5h to 1.5h.  It was also clear now so I knew I had to either try a little harder or maybe stop drinking so much.  
somewhere well past the 35mi mark.  probably right before 50?  (photo stolen from Rusty Glessner)
Mile 50

I arrived at Brunnerdale all by myself but after chugging a shot of Fireball, some hot soup, pickle juice and a fuckton of watermelon, the shirtless runner arrived too.  I told him the Fireball would wake him up if he still wasn't awake yet, but then told him I expected to see him shortly before promptly leaving.  

I was told there'd be a big climb right off the bat, and then a gradual downhill back to the Worlds End visitor centre.  I ground out what would be the last four miles of the gnarliest, technical parts of the single track before  coming out on jeep track.  After the climb I had trouble getting momentum again, but then remembering that I had been saving up gas for much later--I resolved to make my glutes hurt and started consciously targeting 10min miles while trying to arch by back and stand tall.  An opportune jeep track at the top resulted in me engaging the ultra shuffle, and soon I was on my way.  Besides tearing my shorts on a fence, I clipped along pretty good to the next water drop, only stopping for pee breaks or asshat rocks.  

Shortly after clearing the water drop I happened upon the lady and her pacer who dropped me right after Dry Run--they were walking as I kept my 10 minute miles up.  After I passed them the jeep track opened up onto some tarmac where I touched sub-9 for a little bit before diving back into the forest.  There was substantially more track where I didn't need to pay as much attention on foot placement, but there were a few sections of technical single track still in play to keep me awake as the sun started to go down.  

Mile 58
> Frozen Ass 50k/Blackfoot 100k: These two races showed me that the fourth loop in a four-loop race is always the hardest, but that at the very least you should have the strength to shuffle.
> Lysefjorden Inn: More roots and rocks, that galvanized the hypothesis of me being terrible at technical stuff.  It woke me up to going off of using Hokas on this stuff and switching to Salomons.  More importantly, I am grateful I can claim that my crew for this race was based on a boat.  
> Le Grizz 50m: Learned that it is totally fine to enter a race just for the food.  It was fried chicken in this case.
I didn't suffer any further GPS issues since mile 36 but once I got here I saw there was 5.9mi to go, so it was a little disheartening.  The AS staff there asked if I wanted to take a seat or just get it over with, and having not read the participant guide YET AGAIN and realizing this race is actually 64mi, I chose the latter.  In a comical fashion, I had pounded down a cup of chicken noodle soup as I left, but in my haste of trying to respond to two elderly spectators cheering for me I just swallowed the broth in my mouth, leaving a fuck-ton of chicken behind and then subsequently choking after I thanked them.  It was probably five minutes of the aid station staff wondering if I needed help or not as I filled the evening air with what probably sounded like a whooping cough.  

I started picking up steam as the single track subsided back into wide jeep track.  There were occasional spots with choice rocks and roots to jump over, but I started reeling my position back from those who had burned their quads earlier that day.
> Javelina Jundred: Probably my first race that left me wondering why I signed up for this shit--but that I just need to appreciate the value of suffering more often.
Sign after sign pointed me to Worlds End Trail, and I felt unstoppable as I started seeing runners I had not seen in over 20 miles.  Then all of a sudden, with a mile to go, I was cockblocked by one last steep downhill left to reaggravate my right knee.  The last two runners I had passed came up on me shortly after I had passed them, and I courteously let them by while warning them not to drink all the beer.  I recognized the two as runners who had passed me well before mile 19 and it was disheartening to get repassed this close to the finish line.  I also had to take my shades off to see the baby-shit mud and the rock and the roots, but as soon as the slope leveled out they went back on. 

As I got closer to the 154 I could hear the traffic, so I upshifted a little bit.  As the sounds of traffic was replaced by a crowd, my breathing got a little more audible.  Finally, as I was able to smell the coffee and soup and I see my car, and I just said to myself--LIFT, LIFT, SHUT UP I KNOW THIS ISN'T AN 800M, LIFT!!!!!  (There wasn't even anyone close behind me.)

And then, like clockwork, the shirtless runner tracking me the whole day rolled up four minutes behind me, and I congratulated him on not giving in 46 miles ago. 


Sure, I'm not even actively competing in the Ultrarunning Race Series anymore, and I could care less about how I do in the Triple Crown scoring.  But fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck, I got lucky with this one [too].  And if I am to survive Eastern States, get my sole WSq for the year, and finish off the Triple Crown, well...........I probably need to get out of the mindset of 'just looking to finish' and get back to planning some shit out, and then executing said shit.   In an ideal world, I'd like to close ES100 in the same timeframe as AC100 last year due to its similar elevation, trading off an allowance for poles with FUCKING SNAKES EVERYWHERE and no net elevation loss.  Henceforth, my to-do list is as follows:
  • Bench my Speedcross 4's.  The difference in my ITBFS flare between that and the Wings 8 SG was like night-and-day.  Chances are I may be breaking my no-new-shoe new year's resolution.
    • I really don't want to use my Hoka Mafates--this race is too important to roll an ankle over.
    • I have Speedgoats as well, but I don't know how I'd do with it being totally porous, and I have tears in both uppers by the big toe.  
    • Definite hell naw's: anything Icebug, Speedcross 3's that might as well be used for the roads
  • And then when I find the shoes I like, TRUST THEM ON THE DOWNHILLS
  • Stop fucking flying Air Canada on a Beech into MDT.  I'll take my chances of getting hauled off a United flight to SCE instead as they at least use a CRJ, so I can bring an actual piece of luggage instead of cramming all my shit into a duffel.
  • Heat train dressed as a ninja again.
  • Train with poles again.
  • Train with my stupid high-capacity running pack again so I don't fuck up my gait mid-race like I did at Northburn Station.  
  • Deal with my fear of snakes?
  • Read this
  • Now that Clif has discontinued its organic energy food line, and that I've burned through my remaining stock.....find something else?  
Yes, that's a lot of shit to do before mid-August.  
But if there's anything this race has taught me, it's that I've been extremely lucky that shit has not gone catastrophic, I should be grateful for that, and that I should probably "earn" those circumstances.  And if there's anything my lamenting through Worlds End has taught me, it's that shaking the grass will hurt--but it doesn't have to if you can appreciate the value of it.  

By the numbers:

  • Official time: 14:58:30
  • Official distance: 102k
    • fucked-by-the-jungles-of-Middle-Pennsylvania Garmin distance: 109k
  • Official elevation gain: 12395'/3837m
  • Placement: 23/146
  • Overall DNF%: 40%
Stray observations:
  • It's 'Worlds', not 'World's'
  • Modernist poetry is pretty fucking depressing, and I don't recommend it.  But if you must, T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land is pretty hilarious too.  
  • Despite being unimpressed with the visibility of the trails, I cut a cheque to the Loyalsock Fund once I got back home, because there is something truly magical about the place, which needs to be protected.  Something to consider if you no longer have the chance to volunteer at the races you race anymore. 
  • Racing kit used: Tegs
    • I got a lot more compliments on this than I did at Hyner, in particular with one Fern Rock AS staff telling me that if I didn't get out of the AS momentarily after declaring I was not stopping with 6mi to go, he'd steal my trucker hat.   
  • Thanks to Larry for showing me this part of the world!
  • Thanks to all the volunteers for putting on such a classy event!  I don't say this often, but it was quite evident no one wanted me to stay at their aid stations.  Which is a good thing.
Tips of runners not doing the pub crawl:
  • Poles.  
  • Extra shoes.  
  • Extra socks.  
  • Lube.
  • Drink and pee!  too many people suffered from GI issues that day.
  • As noted above--there is a 9k/6m differential between my watch and the official distance because of the foliage.  The best way to pace yourself on this course would be to develop a pace chart, calculate an expected time between aid stations and then time yourself between aid stations.  
  • Before turning into an intersection, ensure you can see another flag on the other side of the turn first.  
Up next:
  • My next race will be the Angel Creek 50m in Alaska.  
    • That will take place the weekend after I pull a stupid 28h shift working the start line and 2 aid stations at Sinister 7's 10th anniversary bash.  #resistancetraining
    • Yes, it's in Alaska, but having not learned anything my airfare is booked so that I am arriving Friday afternoon and leaving on a Sunday redeye so I can load up on some choice Starbucks blends at Pike Place Sunday morning.  
  • I don't usually write race reports for anything under 50m, but my next race report will be for one that is 29m.  For those readers who don't already know what it is--you're better off not finding out until I write it because the surprise will be worth it.  I also don't want to publicize it too much as there are a few things that need to fall in place for everything to go smoothly, and I don't want to jinx myself.  
    • It's not an adventure race, but it might as well be.  
    • It will be the first race I ever run while wearing Mechanix gloves.  

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